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Child custody judge reprimanded by state ethics commission

When child custody disputes play out in court, it is ultimately up to the judge to rule on what outcome would best serve the interests of the child. In that respect, the judge has a lot of latitude. Because of the amount of discretion family law judges have in child custody cases, it is important that the judge be ethically beyond reproach.

With that in mind, readers in Colorado will be interested in the case of a Texas judge who has been publicly reprimanded by the state ethics commission. The warning came in response to a 2004 YouTube video that apparently shows the judge striking his then-teenage and disabled daughter with a belt and yelling profanities at her.

The daughter posted the video on YouTube, and she said the reason her father gave for beating her was that she had illegally downloaded music from the Internet.

Because this judge hears cases related to family law, including disputes over child custody, visitation and child support, the ethics committee issued a warning. The committee also stated that the video cast doubt on the judge's ability to perform, especially since he oversees child abuse cases.

Testimony from 10 witnesses, including eight attorneys, was taken into consideration by the ethics commission. The attorneys attested to the judge's courtroom conduct, and at least some of the attorneys felt the judge had treated them poorly in court and acted unprofessionally.

Judges who do not adhere to their profession's strict code of ethics, both publically and privately, can be censured by ethics boards and professional organizations. Judges may also faces sanctions that directly affect their ability to function in a judicial capacity.

This story may also remind parents to be careful about their own conduct in and outside of family court. Divorce and child-related disputes often bring up very difficult emotions, and parents should take the proper mediation steps to ensure their own interests, as well as their children's, are protected.

Source: Court House News Service, "Texas Commission Takes Judge to Task," David Lee, Sept. 7, 2012

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